Monday, February 21, 2011

Jeff's Chicken Noodle Soup

Everybody loves chicken noodle soup. Not loving chicken noodle soup is like not loving your grandmother or puppies or sunsets: it's almost immoral. Unfortunately too many people are exposed only to the oversalted, flavorless canned versions found in the soup aisle of the local grocery store. Such may be okay for a starving college student in need of a little protein, but they pale in comparison with chicken noodle soup made from scratch. So simple, so basic, and sooooo good.

This recipe comes from our friend Jeff. Still at the start of his own foray into the world of delicious things, he brought ingredients down to the New Year's weekend and one afternoon we guided Jeff in cooking his first batch of homemade chicken noodle soup. It was heavenly.

White meat chicken (1 breast per person, 1" dice)
Carrots (sliced into rounds)
Celery (sliced)
1 smallish onion (diced) and/or 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
A few Tbsp. of butter or cooking oil
Chicken broth (make your own, or use commercial broth)
Egg noodles
Salt & pepper
Seasonings to taste (choose herby things: parsley, sage, thyme, basil, a sprinkling of oregano, etc.)

1. Brown the chicken and onion/garlic in oil or butter at medium heat in a largish pan. (I tend to use the stockpot I'm making the whole batch of soup in anyway, for convenience and to avoid splatters.)
2. Add the carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery is translucent. Add more oil to prevent sticking if needed, and watch the heat - browning is OK, but no burning.
3. Add seasonings to taste. For Jeff's soup we used parsley and basil. Dried is fine, fresh is better. Pesto works too: add a teaspoon or two of your favorite.
4. Let the seasonings heat up for 5 minutes or so, then add chicken broth (about one 28-oz. box for every two people, plus a little more). Raise the heat to high, bring the soup to a near-boil (not a full rolling one), then reduce heat, cover, and put on simmer until the chicken is completely cooked (about 15 minutes).
5. While the soup is simmering, cook your egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and add to the soup.
6. Serve with crusty bread, or little corn muffins, or a green salad.

If you're making this because you're sick with a cold or the flu, you can up the onions and/or garlic, and add seasonings such as cayenne or chili peppers to add spicy heat.

Keep the ratio of noodles to liquid fairly low, especially if you're going to be keeping the soup overnight in the fridge. Noodles will absorb a lot of liquid and you don't want to end up with a big block of half-soggy chicken-flavored noodles.

Other noodles work well too, not just egg noodles. The smaller bite-sized types work best: rotini, bow tie pasta, even macaroni.

General rule of thumb for seasonings: use less of the stronger herbs (such as oregano or rosemary), more of the mellower ones (like parsley).

Leave the noodles out entirely for a basic chicken soup. Freezes well.

1 comment:

  1. I'd add that either rice or barley would be a good substitute for egg noodles. Barley in particular I think is an under-appreciated grain. Om nom nom.